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+ servings
Day of the Dead Layer Cake
Prep Time
2 hrs
Cook Time
25 mins

A decadent dark chocolate cake that is garnished with beautiful edible and skulls.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: dia de los muertos cake, skull cake
Servings: 12
Author: Jackie
Chocolate Cake Layers
  • cups  all-purpose flour
  • cups  granulated sugar
  • 1 ½  cups  unsweetened cocoa powder
  • tablespoon  baking soda
  • 1 ½  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1 ½  teaspoons  salt
  • large eggs
  • 1 ½  cups  buttermilk any kind of milk will work, but buttermilk is best
  • 1 ½  cups  hot coffee or boiling water
  • ½  cup  vegetable oil
  • teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • Black food dye
Black Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Chocolate Ganache-
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Sugar Skull
  • Various colored royal icing flowers
  • Fresh flowers if desired
To make the cake-
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8inch round pans.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs, buttermilk, oil and 1 teaspoon black food dye. Whisk until ingredients are incorporated; batter will be thick and bumpy.
  4. Carefully pour in hot coffee, and whisk until batter is smooth and runny and no longer bumpy.
  5. Divide batter equally into pans.
  6. Bake cakes for 26-28 minutes or until a knife is inserted into the center of the cake and comes out with only a few small moist crumbs.
  7. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting-
  1. Beat together butter, shortening, and 1 teaspoon of black food dye until creamy.
  2. With your mixer running on low, gradually add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla, and increase mixer speed to high speed. Beat frosting for 4-5 minutes or until it is light and fluffy.
  4. Remove beater attachment, and stir with a wooden spoon to remove excess air bubbles.
To assemble the cake-
  1. Level the cakes by using a serrated knife to remove the domes.
  2. Place the first layer of the cake on a cardboard cake round or cake stand.
  3. Evenly spread about ¾ cup of frosting on the top of the cake, top with 2nd cake layer, and repeat with remaining layer.
  4. If wanting a smooth finish cake, spread a thin layer of frosting around the outside of the cake to create a crumb coat. Refrigerate or freeze cake for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Once cold, pipe a generous amount of frosting around the outside of the cake. Run a cake scraper along the edge of the cake to flatten out the frosting and remove excess. For more tips on how to create a smooth finish, see the link below in the notes section.
  6. Refrigerate cake for 4-5 hours (or overnight to allow frosting to set and the black color to saturate.

To make the ganache-
  1. In a medium sized microwave-safe bowl, heat heavy cream for 30-45 seconds or until hot.
  2. Add the chocolate chips and let sit for 4-5 minutes, then stir until smooth.
  3. Drizzle the ganache around the edges of the cake, then use remaining ganache to fill in the top of the cake. Spread with an offset spatula, if needed.
  4. Top cake with sugar skulls and flowers. If using the edible skull lace, run the lace around the bottom of the cake and gently press into the cake to secure.
  5. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes to allow the ganache to set.
  6. Once ready to serve, let the cake come to room temperature for 15-20 before service.
  7. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

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